By Irvin Himmel
In the New Testament every person converted to Christ learned that he was wrong and made a change. Many persons heard the gospel but refused to change from unbelief to faith, from disobedience to submission, from sin to righteousness.
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the hearers of the gospel were religious people. These devout Jews had come to Jerusalem from every nation under heaven for one of the annual feasts of the Mosaic system. Included in the number were ”proselytes-Gentiles who had submitted to circumcision and had accepted the law of Moses. Having deep religious attachments, many in this great Jewish multitude had clamored for the death of Jesus a few weeks earlier. Peter reminded them that they had “crucified and slain” the same Jesus whom God raised from the dead. He offered proof that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ.”
A large number in Peter’s audience saw how utterly wrong they were. Pricked in their heart by the truth presented, they said to Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were ready for a change. Peter explained what they needed to do to be made righteous by God’s grace. He said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” As the process of change was explained, he admonished, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Verse 41 sums up the outcome: “Then they that gladly, received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Here is a case in which about three thousand persons learned that they were wrong, saw the need for a change, and proved themselves courageous by making the needed change.
In Acts 8, we read of a man who had come hundreds of miles from Ethiopia to Jerusalem “to worship.” He obviously was either a Jew or a proselyte to Judaism. Like the people who heard the gospel on Pentecost, he was deeply religious. Riding toward home in his chariot, the man of Ethiopia was reading the scriptures. With his attention centered on a passage in the book of Isaiah and puzzled over whether the prophet was speaking of himself or someone else, the Ethiopian was approached by a stranger. That stranger was a gospel preacher named Philip. After being invited to “come tip and sit with him,” Philip preached to the Ethiopian. Beginning at the same passage, he preached unto him Jesus.
Despite the Ethiopian’s being a sincere, devout, scripturereading man, he needed to change. Philip made it possible for him to be enlightened rather than uninformed, and to be a baptized believer rather than an ignorant worshipper. After hearing about Jesus, the Ethiopian asked, “Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” The chariot was stopped, both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water, and he baptized him. Coming up out of the water a changed man spiritually, the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing.”
Saul of Tarsus
Saul of Tarsus presents another case history. Saul emerged as the ringleader of opposition to the church after the death of Stephen. The Bible says, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:4). Later we find him armed with letters of authorization from the high priest, and “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9), he journeyed toward Damascus to seek out followers of Christ and bring them bound to Jerusalem. That journey was halted suddenly by a miraculous appearance that Jesus made to Saul in a heavenly vision. Jesus called out to the persistent persecutor, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Not knowing the identity of the speaker, Saul asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” After Jesus had identified himself, Saul knew how completely wrong the whole thrust of his action had been up to this point. For the first time, Saul knew he was a rank sinner, a defiant disbeliever, a daring foe of the Son of God. Saul saw how sinful his ambitions had been, how wasted his energies, how useless his course. It was time for a change.
Do not forget that Saul was a conscientious, dedicated, zealous religionist. His opposition to the church reflected his ignorance that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. Saul had supposed that Jesus was an impostor. He thought the disciples of Jesus were Jewish renegades. He was attempting honestly to prove himself a loyal son of Abraham by opposing with all his might what he thought was a heresy.
Realizing that he needed to change, Saul asked Jesus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” He was told to go into Damascus, “and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Later, a disciple named Ananias was sent to Saul in the city to tell him to be baptized. Saul obeyed Jesus.
Anytime that we learn that we are wrong is the time for a change. God’s word does not change; the Bible teaches the same truth now that it did when first penned by inspiration. Our wills must be changed to conform to the divine will. Whenever we learn that we are in error, or if we are failing to obey what the Lord teaches on a given point, it is time for a change. Reader, is it time for a change in your life?
Truth Magazine, XVIII:41, p. 2
August 22, 1974